Pew Charitable Trusts;
Easter Island, a territory of Chile that lies some 4,000 kilometers (2,300 miles) west of that country's coast, is world famous for its Moai statues, which are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Now it is time to protect the treasures off the shores of this remote island, waters of brilliant biodiversity that both feed the local Rapa Nui people and help them continue centuries-old cultural traditions. Though still largely unexplored, Easter Island's waters are known to contain geological hot spots and oases teeming with life in an area of the Pacific Ocean that is otherwise extremely poor in nutrients. The seafloor off the island is home to the only hydrothermal vents in Chilean waters. The heat and minerals pluming from the vents help sustain unique wildlife such as the Easter Island butterfly fish, or tipi tipi in local dialect, and the Nazca bigeye—two of the more than 140 species found only in Rapa Nui waters. The area also harbors 27 threatened or endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is an important spawning ground for many species, including tuna, sharks, marlins, and swordfish.